Experts Talk- Pieter Buytaert and Azure

Azure, Managed Services, Public Cloud, Devops

Pieter Buytaert has as a Cloud Solution Architect a double rol within Arxus. Internally he is working on the development of cloud services, which are provided to customers, and he transfers his knowledge to the team. On the other hand, he provides the architecture for the public cloud projects of our customers.

Rewind: When and why did Arxus started focusing on Azure?

Pieter: “We started approximately 5 years ago. A real focus on Azure has started more recently. The choice for the Microsoft platform (instead of Amazon or Google) is logical, because Microsoft has a strong Hybrid Cloud vision. From then on, we started growing organically.”

What do you mean by that?
“What we do on premise also exists in Azure. We have also started to offer the expertise, which we have built through the years regarding everything about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), on Azure. In addition - and above all – we were searching for a PaaS platform, given this need was clearly showed by our customers

Our knowledge quickly expanded to Azure-native solutions, which are wider than Infrastructure as a Service. When we notice that more expertise is required, we involve other Cronos companies. Concerning to SQL or databases in general we have a collaboration with Kohera. In terms of Big Data we collaborate with Infofarm. In relation to the applicative, we can count the expertise of Exsertus, …”

"The more knowledge we have of the application side, the more support we can offer towards the customer."

Does Arxus have the ambition to create a larger focus in the applicative?

Pieter: “Azure provides so many services, which means the gap between infrastructure (our expertise) and the applicative (expertise of the developers) is decreasing. This offers possibilities to increase our relationship with the developers – end user. It is certainly our ambition to expand our knowledge and expertise on levels of application. Azure DevOps is a great example. We are not developers ourselves, but we do participate in a supporting role. Precisely because Azure strengthens the link between infrastructure (hoster) and application (developer), we focus on the applicative knowledge, without learning the applications itself. This is also very interesting for our clients. Often they do not have much knowledge about Azure, so the learning process for developers could be huge. The more knowledge we have of the application side, the more support we can offer towards the customer.”

How about the Azure knowledge within the team? How do you see that evolving towards the future?

Pieter: “Currently 50% of the team is involved with the public cloud. In 2019, our ambition is to involve every one of the Arxus team in this story. Creating involvement and transferring knowledge remains a key part of my work. We will stimulate this by certifying the whole team of Arxus.”

How are you going to do that?
Pieter: “Every one of our employees need to take exams and need to obtain and Azure Fundamentals certificate. There will be a difference between the Azure Administrator certificate and the Azure Developer certificate. The employees, who are on the infrastructure side of the platform, will need to obtain the first certificate. The employees, who are on the applicative side, will need to obtain the second certificate.

In addition, there is also the Azure Solution Architect and the Azure Fundamentals certificate. The first one is important for the architects within Arxus, including myself. This certificate includes a strong focus on solution-oriented thinking, on design. The second is a “light” version for non-technical people. Our sales team e.g. must have a strong conceptual knowledge. They must have sufficient knowledge to communicate with our customers in a clearly and correctly."

How do you determine which Azure-services you will be offering in 2019?

Pieter: “We want to keep innovation and anticipating on what is going to come. The whole team regularly follows specific courses, trainings and lectures to stay up-to-date of changes in the cloud landscape. Not only do we monitor changes in existing services: we also keep an eye on new services and gather knowledge about those topics. What we offer to our clients is based on novelties within the Azure portfolio, in order with specific Arxus Azure Managed Services.”

What exactly does that mean?
Pieter: “Mainly this concerns automation, monitoring, updates, security, governance, … Specific, we will implement our best practices into templates and offer them to our clients. We also integrate them into our customer portal: not only the Azure novelties and services, which we offer. But also a summary of all managed services, which we have developed on Azure."

How do you see the hybrid cloud and multi cloud solutions evolve in 2019?

Pieter: “Last year, there was an enormous increase in demand towards public cloud solutions (we even speak of a quadruplication). This growth will continue in 2019."

What thrives that increase?

Pieter: “On the one hand, we notice that a lot of Azure customers are organically growing thanks to the services, which Microsoft launches on Azure. Customers are interested in what Azure has to offer and that explains the growth. On the other hand, there is a large demand from the whole market. All sectors and types of businesses: start-ups, SME’s, government institutions and private companies."

"None of the customers has the exact same business, so also with our public cloud solutions. We offer custom work."

An increasing demand towards public cloud, doesn’t that mean evolving towards a one size fits all solution where custom work is lost?

Pieter: “On the contrary. Because the Azure portfolio is so large and scalable, none of our customers will be the same. We can different offer solutions for every type of application and every type of customer. None of the customers has the exact same business, so also with our public cloud solutions. We offer custom work."

What will be the biggest cloud challenges the coming years?

Pieter: “Continue to respond to the increasing demand, develop and expand expertise. We want to be ahead of our competition, we want to anticipate and we want to be on top of things. It is a challenge to stay up to date regarding to all possibilities Azure has to offer, but it is a challenge we like to accept. To inform our customers correctly and notify them in time regarding to new possibilities is one of our goals for 2019."

How is Arxus going to do that?

Pieter: “By making our whole team Azure experts. Our sales team needs to have the conceptual knowledge to communicate in a proper way with our customers. Architects have to create best practices and managed services for our customers and implement them into templates. The implementation team needs to work as automated as possible. Finally, we also train our administrative team. They can provide insight into this renewed business model with our customers. As already indicated above, this will be realized through a combination of knowledge sharing within the team, obtaining team-specific certificates and the right training."

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